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Minnesota health care weathers economy

From staff reports

Nearly half of Minnesota's employers continue to offer employee health coverage, despite rising premiums and a weak economy, the Minnesota Department of Health reported.

Despite several years of double-digit increases in health-insurance premiums, a report released Thursday shows the percentage of employers offering coverage in 2002 was similar to the percentages from 1993 and 1997.

There were several regional differences. While 49.3 percent of businesses statewide offer coverage, nearly 56 percent in the Twin Cities metropolitan area do, compared with 47 percent in other Minnesota metropolitan regions, which includes Olmsted County, and 39 percent in rural areas.

The nearly 20 percent difference between the Twin Cities and rural areas was attributed, in part, to the higher concentration of smaller businesses in rural areas.

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In 2002, only 36 percent of businesses with fewer than 10 employees offered health insurance coverage as a benefit, while 68 percent of employers with 10 to 49 employees and 86 percent of those with 50 to 199 employees offered the benefit. More than 90 percent of businesses with more than 200 employees offered coverage.

"This information shows that Minnesota employers continue to be good corporate citizens," said Dianne Mandernach, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. "By continuing to offer important health benefits to their employees, especially during tough economic times, businesses are helping Minnesota's workers remain healthy and productive."

She said employers may be able to continue offering health insurance because workers are shouldering more of the cost. The Department of Health plans a larger report this spring focusing on that issue.

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